Starlink Direct-To-Cell Services Disruptive to Military Actions

image provided by pixabay

This post is also available in: עברית (Hebrew)

SpaceX’s Starlink satellite internet service recently revealed its new direct-to-cell service that allows individuals to directly connect to satellites via their smartphones. This service, as well as similar offerings from other companies, is being closely monitored by US Space Force because of claims that the technology could be highly disruptive to military narrowband satcom systems.

US Space Force Colonel Eric Felt spoke of the impact Starlink and other similar services could have on the US Space Force: “We view direct-to-cell as a really disruptive thing… How that technology develops is going to play out in how we provide service to the narrowband users.”

This means that commercial direct-to-cell provides a similar service to the one provided by the Mobile User Objective System (MUOS), which enables secure calls and data transfer to US mobile forces.

According to Interesting Engineering, the US Space Force plans on commissioning two new narrowband communications satellites that would allow it to improve its existing MUOS constellation (that’s made up of five satellites in geosynchronous orbits). Which would allow it to continue providing coverage well into the 2030s, as Felt explained.

However, he also stated that the Space Force is keeping a close eye on the development of direct-to-cell commercial satellite communications services as they may succeed MUOS – they “bridge us into the 2030s when we can start migrating away from the current MUOS terminals to something different,” Felt explained.

Moreover, Felt specifically referred to a new study conducted by the Space Warfighting Analysis Center looking at the future of the narrowband architecture and emphasized that cybersecurity could be a concern. However, this concern could potentially be outweighed by the fact that troops could use this innovation to instantly connect without the need for special equipment.

It is also important to note that SpaceX is not the only company that is looking to provide this service to customers – other companies (including AST SpaceMobile, Iridium, Lynk Global, and others) are racing to offer a similar service to their customers.